Social distancing is a core hallmark of any pandemic plan….we call it one of the four pillars of a basic pandemic plan. I am now seeing articles about social distancing reaching into society as we head into the fall flu season – from cancelling meetings to no handshaking in church! So what is social distancing?
GUIDELINES FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING
Social distancing is a technique used to minimize close contact among persons in public places, such as work sites and public areas. It involves keeping people three to six feet apart. This can be a challenge in some work environments. An increase of cases of H1N1 in your immediate area could be your trigger for action. Assess the amount of illness at work daily. Be sure to include this social distancing information in your pandemic staff education.
Some social distancing options include:
- Split teams into different work locations.
- Stagger shift changes so staff can be more easily separated.
- Prohibit face-to-face meetings. Whenever possible, use technology solutions to conduct business, including telephones, video conferencing, and the Internet.
- Avoid using shared equipment whenever possible. Items such as phones, headsets and keyboards are key repositories of illness and are difficult to clean.
- Avoid unnecessary travel. Cancel or postpone non-essential meetings, gatherings, workshops, and training sessions.
- Contrary to non-pandemic situations, advise your employees to avoid public transportation and drive to work. Or allow a version of “flex time” that will work for you, with employee work hours shifted earlier or later to avoid rush-hour crowds on public transport. Consider enlarging the parking lot, if necessary.
- Introduce staggered lunchtimes to minimize numbers of employees in lunchrooms at any one time.
- Encourage employees to bring lunch and eat at their desks or away from others.
- Encourage them to avoid eating in the cafeteria, lunchrooms, and crowded restaurants.
- Advise employees not to congregate in break rooms or smoke-break areas where people normally socialize. If they do, advise them to keep three to six feet from their colleagues.
- Advise employees to avoid shaking hands or hugging.
- Close or curtail company gyms, childcare centers, and recreation areas.
In work settings where social distancing is not possible, the introduction of personal protective equipment may make the difference between being open or closed.
TO STOP SWINE FLU, SKIP THE MEETINGS
Employers are being advised to hold fewer face-to- face meetings and to use conference rooms with large tables instead to stop the risk of spreading swine flu at work. Occupational health experts encourage employers to stagger lunch breaks and reduce groups of workers smoking at one time. These measures may be necessary to cut down on the risks of one person passing on infection to another. Employers and human resources staff are bracing for a potential rise in the virus around the end of November and over the following two months.
CANADA – WINNIPEG CHURCHES BAN HANDSHAKES OVER H1N1
The Catholic Archdiocese of Winnipeg has banned handshaking between church-goers over concerns it could lead people to contract the H1N1 influenza virus, also known as swine flu.
That means the archdiocese considers H1N1 to be in the general church population and people with chronic and acute illnesses are at risk. The diocese said instead of mass participants shaking hands during the Rite of Peace, they’ll be told to substitute a bow of the head. The archdiocese also said public holy-water fonts at church entrances have been drained and hand-sanitizing stations have been placed there.
Church worship spaces will be disinfected after each service, and the archdiocese said that during communion, chalices “will be aggressively wiped after each communicant.” The plans “were developed as a necessary precaution in response to current concerns about an increased risk of infection from the H1N1 virus.”
FLU VACCINE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE FLU SEASON RELEASED
The WHO has just concluded its Vaccine Composition Meeting for the Southern Hemisphere (held in Melbourne, Australia) and has made recommendations for the composition of the influenza virus vaccine for use in the 2010 southern hemisphere influenza season. The WHO recommends that influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2010 influenza season (southern hemisphere winter) contain the following strains: A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus (the current pandemic strain); A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus; and B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.